Magic Basketball Mailbag, 7/14/10 | Magic Basketball

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Jul 14

Magic Basketball Mailbag, 7/14/10

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Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Here’s another installment of the Magic Basketball Mailbag.

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If the Orlando Magic can’t obtain a top star, why not build one up and invest time into Marcin Gortat or Ryan Anderson to be our power forward in the starting line up? They both have size.

Against the elite teams in the NBA, which — for now — includes the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, and the Boston Celtics, it makes little sense for the Orlando Magic to start either Ryan Anderson or Marcin Gortat at power forward. The main problem, more than anything else, is that Rashard Lewis would start at the small forward position and that would mean he’d have to defend players like LeBron James, Paul Pierce, and others. At small forward, Lewis doesn’t have the lateral quickness to keep players in front of him or the speed to chase them on the perimeter. This isn’t new, by the way. Lewis dealt with the same issues when he played with the Seattle SuperSonics.

There’s no question that Anderson, more so than Gortat, would be able to start at power forward for the Magic because he brings some of the same skills to the table as Lewis does, given their roles as stretch fours. However, the problem is that Anderson is not as good of a defender at power forward compared to Lewis. Not right now, at least. Against players like Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, and others, it’s a moot point. However, the issue of Lewis defending small forwards doesn’t go away. In Gortat’s case, he’d be able to defend and rebound the basketball. Yet Gortat’s inability to spread the floor and be a threat to score would undermine Orlando’s offense. Gortat at the power forward position, playing alongside Dwight Howard, is an alignment that works in spurts but that’s it. And that’s when Lewis is out of the lineup, too.

One of the underrated aspects of Lewis’ skill-set is that he is able to defend power forwards effectively, given that they remain stationary more often than not and usually ply their trade on the low block. As such, most of Lewis’ weaknesses defensively are masked since all he has to do is use his strength and wingspan to combat power forwards. And if worse comes to worse, Lewis also has Howard there immediately on the weak-side to help him when necessary. People like to criticize Lewis for not playing well offensively in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, but they conveniently forget that he did a good job of keeping Kevin Garnett in check in the series. This is after Garnett destroyed Antawn Jamison in the previous round, so the argument that Lewis is a defensive liability against power forwards doesn’t carry much weight. Yes, Lewis struggles against the Gasol’s of the NBA but he is not alone in that regard.

Ultimately, the dilemma is that Lewis is unable to defend small forwards and can’t benefit from Howard’s ability to erase his mistakes as much. The problems on defense would be exacerbated if Anderson started because he isn’t as good of a defender at power forward as Lewis is. If Gortat was inserted in the lineup, even though he would be able to provide a boost for Orlando defensively and rebounding-wise, the offense would sputter. Lewis’ role on offense at small forward and some of the advantages he’d have at the position would be almost entirely nullified with all the issues that were mentioned. Plus, Lewis would be defended by someone like Artest that can neutralize him on the perimeter or the low post rather than, say, Bosh. All in all, there’s too many “cons” in this alignment against the teams that matter for the Magic.

In this scenario, Lewis is better off staying at power forward.

Most likely scenario: Orlando makes a trade before the season, at the deadline, or not at all (this year)?

It’s looking more likely that the Orlando Magic will make a trade, if they do, at or before the deadline during the regular season. By that time, general manager Otis Smith will be able to see where the Magic stand in comparison to their competition and he can decide whether or not something needs to change with the roster. Smith didn’t pull off a deal last year but you have to figure that with some of the assets he has at his disposal, he may be open to making a move if necessary.

What are the chances the Magic make a deal by moving a large contract? i.e. Gortat, Carter, Lewis, etc.

Tough to speculate on an answer.

Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat are movable assets for various reasons — Carter has an expiring contract and Gortat is a starting-caliber center that is valued by many teams in the league. Lewis, however, is untradable because he has two years guaranteed left on his deal ($19.5 million and $21 million, respectively). The chances of a trade occurring depend on a number of variables. If a deal does happen, it probably won’t take place until the season is underway.

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Thanks for the questions!

If you have a question for the mailbag, you can reach me at eddy.rivera7 [at] gmail [dot] com

10 comments
Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@nolerhett

Lewis doesn't have the worst contract in the NBA. Lewis still has value as a player, even though he's overpaid. There's plenty of other players in the league that aren't worth a damn, whatsoever.

And if you're insinuating that Lewis' numbers were down because he got caught with supplements that triggered a positive drug test, you're crazy. Lewis became the fourth option on the Magic when Vince Carter arrived and as such, his role on offense was lessened. Plus, Lewis played less minutes with the arrival of Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass to back him up at the power forward position. That being said, Lewis' per minute statistics were EXACTLY THE SAME as the year prior. Almost nothing changed about Lewis.

@Eyriq

Zing!

Eyriq
Eyriq

@nolerhett
I think saying we are STUCK with him is a bit of a STRETCH.

nolerhett
nolerhett

@DWIGHT

Lewis is untradeable. I really wish Magic fans would realize this and stop mentioning him in various trades. Rashard L. has the worst contract in the nba for the next two years and it's not even close. The Magic are paying a guy who averaged 14 pts and 5 rbs more than 20m a year. Last year was his worst year statistically since his first couple of years and it was curiously the year that followed his getting caught for using performance enhancing drugs. His contract might be valuable as an expiring in his final year but that is going to depend on how the new collective bargaining agreement turns out. So lets all say it together ... THE MAGIC ARE STUCK WITH RASHARD LEWIS FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS (paying a an average salary of 20 mil. per yr.) UNLESS ISIAH THOMAS IS REHIRED AS THE KNICKS GM.

Eddy Rivera
Eddy Rivera

@Billy (slickw143)

I'm open to the idea of moving Rashard Lewis to small forward, but there's only three players I'd be willing to accommodate -- Boozer, Bosh, and Stoudemire. That's it.

@DWIGHT

Lewis isn't getting traded.

@Eyriq

Lewis' length is irrelevant if he can't keep players in front of him. And yes, Gortat's presence does detract from the Magic's ability to score. Ben crunched the numbers at OPP a while back, and they support the notion -- as well as Van Gundy's opinion -- that the Gortat/Howard alignment only works in spurts. Orlando's issue isn't defense when it comes to the elite teams in the NBA ... the problem is that they can't score, and sliding Gortat to the power forward position does little to improve the situation.

@Ruel Zyndrex Abila

The 4-out/1-in alignment will be helpful against the Heat, that's for sure.

@JP

Bass does little to help the Magic.

JP
JP

Two words. BRANDON BASS.

Ruel Zyndrex Abila
Ruel Zyndrex Abila

I so love your thoughts about Rashard. I think it's better to keep Rashard at PF. And I agree with Billy. It should be posted in every Magic site so people will understand this. I really hope the Magic wins a title with the 1-in 4-out setup so the argument that the unconventional setup won't work. I mean, how many conventional teams have failed? How many have tried the stretch 4? I'm giving this setup another chance.

Eyriq
Eyriq

I like Lewis' length on the perimeter and I love Gortat's added shot blocking and defensive rebounding, with I think makes that line-up a net positive defensively. On offense, Gortat will produce more 2nd chance points and will shoot a very high percentage when he does try to score. So the question then becomes, how much of a net-negative is his presence on the teams overall shooting? Does he really detract from space and decrease effective ball movement to the point that FG% would drop drastically? Does any drop in FG% not get made up by his offensive rebounding?

I don't think it is a closed book on the twin towers and their ability to improve on a team that is already winning games by 7 points a night. Is it a necessity? Maybe it is actually, as Gortat has shown tremendous potential that if synced with Dwight's could really do wonders.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

@DWIGHT
One of them is 22 years old. That same 22 year old one is not as good as the 30 year old offensively or defensively. The 30 year old one is the starter, the 22 year old one is the future starter who needs more time to develop before he can be the starter on a championship team.

Lewis won't be traded until the final year of his contract. Until then, the Magic are cool since Lewis has been the best "stretch 4" in the league since he's been in Orlando and a big part of our 3 straight division titles. Caps lock, however, is never cool.

DWIGHT
DWIGHT

HAVING TWO IDENTICAL PLAYERS AT THE SAME POSITION MAKES NO SENSE (LEWIS AND ANDERSON). ONLY A MATTER OF TIME B4 LEWIS GETS TRADED.

Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

The answer about Rashard Lewis being slid over to the three needs to be plastered on every Magic site. People just can't seem to understand this.